Article by Rebecca
Image by Will Hobbs (www.sirwilliamwesley.com)
Good morning sunshine! This month we’re talking about Amaterasu, the Shinto goddess of the sun, agriculture, peace, and order. You are the sunshine of my life is more than just the lyrics to a song when spoken in reference to Amaterasu. When Amaterasu isn’t out, the sun isn’t out. No sun is bad. Right?
Described as beautiful, prudish, timid, industrious, temperamental, and compassionate, Amaterasu is a complex deific woman! As all of us woman tend to be. Here is one story that perhaps best sums up many dimensions of this time honored deity.
Amaterasu has a pain in the butt brother Susanowo, the god of storms. Unlike most brothers, who at their worst read your diary or listen in on your phone calls, Susanowo stepped up the annoying brother game by getting drunk, destroying Amaterasu’s rice fields and in a rampage killing two of her handmaidens. Brothers, what’s a girl to do?
Well, Amaterasu stomped off and sealed herself in a cave. One presumes she sat there and fumed, but I like to imagine a Sarah Connor training sequence, where Amaterasu buffs herself up for revenge. No matter what she was doing, it doesn’t change the fact that she had locked herself away, and as I mentioned before, no Amaterasu means no sun. As the other gods learned, no sun meant no food, and worse yet no food meant no worshippers!
This prompted all the gods to come and try to lure her out. This didn’t work. Fortunately, they hatched a plan. They set up a mirror across from the entrance to the cave. Then Ame-no-Uzume, whose name roughly means Heavenly Alarming Female, performed an exotic dance. Okay, it was a striptease. Anyway, of course all the other deities there got excited and started hootin’ and hollerin’
Finally, Amaterasu could not stand it any more and opened the cave to ask what was going on. They told her they found a woman even more beautiful than her to take her place and then cleared a path so Amaterasu could look into the mirror. She had never seen herself before, and was quite taken by the woman she was seeing. She stepped forward to take a closer look. Once she did, the gods ran up behind her and sealed the cave, so she could not go back in.
Thus, the sun came back. Tah dah! In some parts of Japan, they perform a ritual when there is a solar eclipse. Essentially, they make a lot of noise to recreate the racket the gods made to get Amaterasu to come out of her cave.
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